34: Jimmy Payne, Defensive Tackle #87 (1978 – 1982)
Jimmy Payne did not travel far when he chose to attend The University of Georgia to play college football. The Athens native was a three-sport star Cedar Shoals High School and decided to stay home and play for the Dawgs, despite a heavy recruiting battle with the Tennessee Volunteers. Jimmy’s father, James, worked for the university but tried to remain neutral throughout the recruiting process. Jimmy would go on to become the first 5-time letterman in Georgia football history.
As a true freshman in 1978, Jimmy saw his first action under the tutelage of Georgia defensive coordinator Erk Russell. He speed and versatility allowed Payne to play both on the line and at linebacker. During an early game in the 1979 season, Payne injured his knee and would have to miss the remainder of the season, the NCAA granted him a medical redshirt, meaning he would still have three years left for the Georgia defense.
With his knee healthy, Payne returned to the line for the 1980 season and became an All-SEC performer. He led the Dawgs with 7 sacks and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 85. He also had an interception during Georgia’s 41-0 victory over Vanderbilt. Georgia won the SEC and the National Championship and Payne returned to anchor the line again in 1981. Payne once again led the dawgs in sacks, this time with 12. He recorded 62 tackles and was named first team All-SEC for the second consecutive season. During Payne’s senior season in 1982, Georgia won their third straight SEC Championship and Payne made the all-SEC squad for the third straight year. To cap his career, he was named first team All-American, a fitting ending to fine career in Athens.
During his five years on the Georgia line, Payne racked up 256 tackles, including 41 for a loss(5th all-time). His 28 career sacks ranks third at Georgia, although sacks were not officially recorded during his freshman year in 1978. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 1983 NFL Draft. Jimmy Payne died in 1998 after a long struggle with cancer.